If you are like me when playing tower defense games, you load a lot of defenses early and get really frustrated when an enemy strolls the length of the path all the way to the end. In Orcs Must Die!, by Indie developers, Robot Entertainment, this is not an issue. You have the ability to chase down that sauntering baddie and put an end to him instead of helplessly watching from your tower. Gameplay is best described as a genre hybrid, where tower defense meets third person action.
You play the role of a War Mage apprentice called upon to defend Rifts that lead back to our world from hordes of orcs. These Rifts are found throughout an assortment of dungeon based maps and after the untimely demise of your instructor only you are left to defend them. Using your magic you can set traps such as arrow walls, spikes and exploding barrels as well as jump into the fray and kill orcs yourself. Thankfully when you are running around beating up orcs you are impervious to your own traps so you can charge this way and that like a crazy person and even get the orcs to follow you into the traps.
The default weapon is a magical crossbow but more weapons can be chosen, such as a sword or even various elemental bracers. However the crossbow is fantastic due to its ability to deliver instant kills via a headshot and offer secondary stun. Once mastering the crossbow you should be able to usually take out the first five orcs through the door during each wave. Having headshots in the game eliminates those frustrating moments where you put 5 rounds into the face of an enemy and they still do not die. This is very helpful when a small group gets past the traps and you have to handle things yourself. The starting traps are basic, tar pits and floor spikes but after each level a new trap or power is unlocked.
At the beginning of each level a Rift has an amount of rift points. The level is lost when all the rift points are depleted. If an orc passes through the rift back to your world, one rift point is lost. To mix things up there are other monsters who reduce rift points at a different rate. Another thing to consider is that if your character dies, 5 rift points are used for a revive. As long as there is at least one rift point left when the final wave passes then the level can be beaten, however at the end of each level the game rates your performance. In the default mode a rating out of 5 skulls is awarded. These skulls are then used to purchase upgrades for the traps. My first upgrade was turning the floor spikes into poison floor spikes. You can never go wrong with poison. Getting all five skulls is not a one shot deal either. You can go back at any point and play a previous level with all the upgrades and unlocks you have accumulated. If you struggle with a level you only have to just beat it and then later when you have enough traps to put the Home Alone series to shame, you can go back and get those skulls your orc-mashing-world-saving-self truly deserves.
While playing the game your character and the orcs will often make funny comments. However, it is wise to stay tuned in to what your character says as he will often yell out the location of the leading orcs as they pass certain locations. This can be helpful if an orc has slipped past you and you are not paying attention to the minimap. Speaking of the minimap it has a neat feature that in between waves it will show were every orc has been killed up to that point in the level as a red dot for those killed by traps and green for the handkilled orcs. This makes it easy to see which areas could use additional trap reinforcements before the next wave.
A demo is available online if you fancy a taste for yourself. If you have played it and find the game a bit easy, do not be fooled! The levels get much more challenging despite the new traps and weapons available to you. The first level after the playable demo levels gave me some grief. You know, the good kind of gaming grief that results in that fist pump and scream at the monitor when you finally beat the level.
The biggest disappointment about the game is a lack of co-op/ multi-player. I would have loved to blast orcs alongside a friend. This would have further increased the game’s replayability. However because it is possible to go back with all the unlocks, the game is still pretty replayable. And while co-op is not available, there is a leaderboard that displays all your friends stats so you might find yourself trying to top a friend’s score that he definitely somehow cheated to get. We here at GD are convinced that following a success with Orcs Must Die! Robot Entertainment are going to follow up with a sequel or DLC and chances are, coop is likely to be in their to-do list.
Overall Orcs Must Die is a fun, easy-to-pick-up-n-play game with a decent price tag and if you are not convinced then there is always the playable demo to give a spin. The graphics are enjoyable and in line with the comedy tone set by the rest of the game. Orcs Must Die! is not a system buster, most people should be able to play it. The 10-20 minutes it takes to play a level is perfect for taking a little break from work or study and provides excellent stress relief as you watch orc hordes wiped out by your hands. So gamer to gamer, I say it is certainly worth a shot.